©  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: April 09, 2018
Webpage updated: April 09, 2018




The official opening ceremony of the South Devon and Tavistock Railway took place on Tuesday June 21st 1859.

The first train left Plymouth Station (Millbay) at about 9am.  At a few minutes before 2pm a special train left Plymouth with the Directors and special guests numbering about 350 people conveyed in ten carriages.  The 16˝ mile journey took 37 minutes.

Many an attractive woodland scene, diversified with trees of every growth, alike yet various, is presented to the eye as the train pursues its hurried course, while her and there are seen a village church perched upon a distant hill, or, sheltered by a clump of trees, a humble cottage with its smoke wreath dispersing ….’, reported the Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse Herald.

Without stopping the train passed through Bickleigh Station and Horrabridge Station, despite the latter village providing a brass band to serenade the passengers as it went on its way.

Upon arrival at Tavistock Station the band of the Warwick Militia struck up the National Anthem before the Portreeve of Tavistock, Mr C H Daw, accompanied by the sergeants-at-mace, welcomed the dignitaries led by the vice-chairman of the South Devon and Tavistock Railway Company, Mr Dabb, and the chairman of the South Devon Railway Company, Mr Woollcombe.  The Mayors of both Plymouth and Devonport attended as well.

After some short speeches, a procession was formed.  At the head was one of the two military bands on duty that day, the Warwick Militia or the 96th Regiment.  They were followed by the sergeants-at-mace , the Portreeve and the Directors of the SD&T and South Devon Railways.

Following them came the trades of the Town, with displays and models mounted on waggons supplied by Messrs Pickford & Company, the carriers, and hauled by some fine horses supplied by Mr W Derry, of Plymouth, in recognition of the part they had played in the construction of the line from Plymouth.

Heading the procession were the printers from the “Tavistock Gazette”, busily printing copies of the Railway Time Tables, which were freely distributed among the crowd.  Behind them came the Captains of the Mines, the proprietors and workers of the Bedford Foundry, complete with steam engines.  In the middle was the Portreeve’s carriage containing 99-years-old Mr John Eddy and 97-years-old Mary Doidge, who were presumably the Town’s oldest residents.

Carpenters, dairymen, butchers, tailors, cordwainers, tinmen, whitesmiths, coach builders, woolcombers all played their parts while the spectators were entertained by the Tavistock Brass band and the Tavistock Fife and Drum band, which brought up the rear of the procession.

At the dinner afterwards in the Bedford Hotel, attended by about 120 people, the Portreeve thanked the Directors of the Railway for the number of trains they had agreed to run on weekdays but caused a stir by voicing the opinion that: ‘he hoped they would not have many trains on Sundays’, which was met with loud cries of “Plenty of ‘em” so he left his speech unfinished and sat down.

Out in the Town the residents were enjoying games and races of all descriptions, free tea and buns and a large firework display organised by a Mr Monk.